CLEMSON – Through one session in Death Valley, Chad Morris has kept to his promise – Clemson will run the football this year.
With patchwork o-lines on both ‘Orange’ and ‘White,’ the top four in the running back depth chart (as it stands now) all had their moments.
Senior D.J. Howard, juniors C.J. Davidson and Zac Brooks and redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman averaged 6.2 yards per carry. Even imposing walk-on Kurt Fleming, a 21-year-old freshman after a stint in pro baseball, had a pretty good collision with sophomore hard-hitter Ben Boulware – and later in the game, a 49-yard rumble down the field.
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The Tigers’ head coach came away impressed.
“Boom! There goes D.J. Howard,” Dabo Swinney said. “Boom! There goes Wayne Gallman. Boom! There goes Zac Brooks. Don’t forget about C.J. Davidson. They all are competing their tail off. It’s a close group. It’s a group that has excellent chemistry. They all bring great things.”
“I’ve been saying all along that this is as deep a group and as talented a group since I’ve been here,” Morris said. “We’re going to be better running the football. I’m just been excited about getting these guys back healthy.”
Howard has had his share of injuries over the last three years, but Saturday, he shed tacklers in the red zone for a 13-yard touchdown run – finishing with nine carries for 59 yards.
“D.J., when healthy, is really a downhill guy and has the speed to run away from people,” said Swinney.
The Grayson (Ga.) product Gallman led the RB effort on the Orange with nine carries for 61 yards. He also had two catches for 28 yards. That’s a part of his game that has come along according to Swinney.
“Gallman’s kind of a combination,” he said. “The thing I’m most pleased with Gallman is that he’s shown this spring he can be a factor in the passing game. He breaks tackles. He’s strong. He’s a little different and it’s pretty easy to see that. He’s a guy who keeps getting better.”
“Wayne Gallman was upset because we pulled him out in the final 10 seconds of the game,” Morris said. “Wondering why we pulled him out. I said listen we’re going to need you in August. It’s that youngness in him and that competitiveness.
“I’ve said from the get-go he’s a very punishing runner. He’s a guy that can start and stop. Very violent when he runs.”
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Swinney says the competition was “heated all spring” and clearly will be a by-committee effort this fall (freshmen Tyshon Dye and Adam Choice also possibly in the mix).
“D.J. is the most knowledgeable,” said Swinney. “Zac is right there. Wayne is still learning – he had a few busted assignments out there. It’s his first spring to put it all together. It will be a big summer for him.
“C.J. has continued to improve. That’s why you saw him play early in the Orange Bowl. He’s a guy who we can use some different ways. As we get into the season and start gameplanning for our opponent, you’ll see all those guys mixed in. They all have things they bring to the table.”